What World of Warcraft Can Teach Yearbook Advisers and Staffs

A screenshot from World of Warcraft

A screenshot from World of Warcraft

Bringing Warcraft to the Yearbook

It is no secret to anyone who knows me—students, family, friends, colleagues—that I am an avid video-gamer.  I grew up playing them—going all the way back to Pong—and I really see no need to stop because it is no sillier or serious as walking around a field whacking a ball with a crooked stick. As an English teacher, I often spend a great deal of time talking about some of the fascinating tricks writers do with language like symbolism or analogies. In my role as a yearbook adviser I spend a great deal of time and energy looking for inspiration–both for myself and my staff members.

What does any of this have to do with anything that is even mildly important? Well, in my search for inspiration for a blog post I thought I would use my gamer background to make an allusion or analogy. That line of thinking led to the idea for this post. So, if you are already wondering what a video game can teach you about yearbook, hold on to your mouse…

5 Things Yearbook Advisers and Staffs Can Learn from World of Warcraft

  1. Know Your Role: You often hear this piece of advice given to new players in WoW. When you are part of a group you have to know what your responsibilities are and that your role can change from situation to situation. You might be the healer for a group one run and then a DPSer (damage) on the next run so you have to know how to do those different tasks. This definitely applies to the yearbook. Staff members need to know their responsibilities for a given situation and then they need to make sure they handle those responsibilities. You might be responsible for the photographs for a particular spread one week and the article for a different spread next week–know what you have to do to accomplish those different assignments. One noteworthy consequence about “Knowing Your Role” is that by knowing how to perform more roles–you become more valuable to your group. The lesson advisers can take from this is that they are the “Adviser”. That means let the students do the work as much as possible–easier said than done sometimes.
  2. Grind it Out: In Warcraft if you want to make it to the maximum level with your characters, or if you want the best gear, or if you want a lot of gold, or if you want a cool reward, you have to “Grind It Out”. You have to put in some serious time to reach some goals by doing some things over and over and over and over. There are very few things that happen on the first time attempt at anything. And you can bet that anything that will get you noticed will take some serious effort. I frequently tell my students that “cool” takes time. If you want your spread to look “cool”, it is going to take some serious time and real effort to make that happen. So, just like trying to get the 300 tokens to get some awesome mount in Warcraft–creating an award worthy spread or yearbook is going to take work where you may only see small steps forward each day, but may add up in the end to something greater.
  3. Gear Up!: In Warcraft if you want to participate in certain events or activities, you have to meet certain gear requirements. This is even scalable and more applicable when in a group situation; if you want to be of any real value to your group, you better have good gear. When you don’t have good gear–you die. A LOT. No one enjoys that. To apply this to a yearbook situation, try thinking of it in terms of what you bring to the table. What can you offer to the other staff members? What can you do that will help make things better for those around you? If you want to be the photographer for the group, it helps if you have a camera–and more importantly you know how to properly use it. If you want to design all the spreads, if helps to have creative ideas–or know places you can find some inspiration.  Most importantly, and this really is the heart of the “Gear Up!” call, you have to find ways to improve. Get better gear. Learn new skills. Master skills you already have. Just get better.
  4. Have a Plan: Going into a Warcraft Raid or boss encounter usually entails having a plan if you do not want to die repeatedly. When there is no plan bad things are guaranteed to happen. Groups get angry. Tempers flair. Nerves fray. No one has any fun. Those things happen to yearbook staffs as well when there is no plan. A strategic course of action saves a lot of grief down the road. Individuals also benefit from planning: whether it is plotting some way to get that new piece of gear for your rogue, or what you want to do with your Homecoming spread, a plan makes these tasks manageable and easier to accomplish.
  5. Don’t Freak Out: So, you ground out a bunch of repeatable quests so that you could gear up. You know your role and are in a good group that has a solid plan. You and your buddies are ready to take on some top-tier, end-game content. You are dreaming of all the great gear, titles, and rewards that await. Then, on the first attempt downing the first boss everyone dies within 30 seconds. Don’t Freak Out. No matter how good everyone’s gear, no matter how prepared they are, no matter how sound the plan, some times things go wrong. Unexpected events will happen and mess everything up. Just stay focused and take another run at it. You might have to tweak the plan. Being able to adapt and overcome the unexpected is crucial–whether it is Warcraft or yearbook.

There you have it: some lessons World of Warcraft can teach advisers and students about yearbook. I hope you were able to take away something useful from that.

And just in case you were wondering, the picture at the top of the post is an actual screenshot I took while playing. This particular shot shows a group of guild-mates  going into a raid area for the first time. As an added note I should point out that you cannot actually see my character in this shot–I know that makes you sad.

What advice would you offer to yearbook students or advisers? What games have taught you some lessons, or created some insight to other areas of your life?

As always feel free to leave comments, or questions. If you like this post or site, like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, subscribe, or share it with someone. The more, the merrier.

Some of My Other Yearbook Posts:


Link of the Week: Idea Garden Blog

My Ipad

A Blog for Yearbooks

Since the first 3 post for the Link of the Week covered Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, and Hack Education, I thought I would offer up something for yearbook advisers and students out there who are looking for a little inspiration. As a yearbook adviser for 12 years I know that I am always looking for inspiration. So, when I find a new place to fill that bill, I get pretty excited about it.

The Idea Garden Blog is a blog I stumbled across recently and really liked. It has a couple of nice sections showcasing some spread ideas and suggestions that many yearbook programs should find useful. In addition to the sections devoted to yearbook spreads, there are also sections that provide some tips and checklists.

There really is something here for everyone involved with yearbook program. Organization, sales, photography…you name it and the Idea Garden seems to have you covered with at least one post. While any adviser or student should be able to find some really useful resources or ideas here, a new adviser will really benefit from the material.

About the only knock I could give the site is that I wish that it was updated more frequently. But, knowing how a school year goes for yearbook advisers, I can’t really hold that against the site too much. When the yearbook really gets rolling, it can take up an insane amount of time outside of the normal class time. And if things aren’t going well it just gets worse.

What sites, or advice do you have for other yearbook advisers? What sites do you like to use for finding some inspiration?

Use IPad and Numbers to make a Mobile Yearbook Ladder

A Screenshot of my Yearbook Ladder

A Screenshot of my Yearbook Ladder

A Digital Yearbook Ladder

One of the first things I ever did as a yearbook adviser as an attempt to simplify handling some of the regular aspects of putting together a yearbook was to use Microsoft Excel to make a spreadsheet for the yearbook ladder. The big advantage of having a digital ladder layout over the traditional hard copy ladder chart supplied by our yearbook company was that I could change things a lot easier. No worries or mess like trying to erase information about a page on the ladder poster tacked up on a cork-board.

Having the Excel version of the yearbook ladder also let me color code pages by assigning a color to a group of students and then using that color as the background color for the pages assigned to them. Then, once they had completed a spread I would change the background color to one I decided would mean that it was completed.

When our school implemented a 1-1 IPad program at the beginning of the year, I knew that I wanted to make a version of the ladder on the IPad using Numbers. While Numbers for the IPad doesn’t give me as much control over things like types of borders for cells, or the amount of colors I can use as background color for cells, it still gives me the ease and convenience of changing information quickly. It also makes it easier to back up the ladder using Dropbox or ICloud. Sharing the ladder with my yearbook students so they can keep track of their assigned spreads is also convenient.

A couple of the main differences between my Excel ladder and the IPad ladder is that with the version I set up in Numbers I decided to dedicate a column to write in the name of the group (I usually just use the first letter of the group members’ last names as the group name) assigned to the spread next to it. While I originally set up the Numbers version of the ladder with the same horizontal orientation that I use on my laptop, I recently decided to make a vertical version just because I can scroll vertically a lot easier on the IPad.

Here are the Excel Files for my yearbook ladders:

You should be able to open these files using Numbers on the IPad. I intended to provide the actual Numbers files, but I haven’t had much luck getting them to upload to this site so far. If and when I do figure that out I will make them available as well. These files were made using Numbers and then saved as Excel files. Each of the ladders has room for 160 pages, but you can easily add to that just by copying and pasting a signature section.

Having the yearbook ladder may not be the most game-changing use of the IPad for a yearbook program, but the ladder is such a crucial piece of the yearbook puzzle I thought it might help in some small way to share these.

How do you use Numbers, or Pages on the IPad with your yearbook program? How do you use any of the Microsoft Office tools? What about Web 2.0 tools?

Enjoy. Use. Share. Improve upon these files. If you like them, or have suggestions on how to improve them please leave a comment. If you like the blog feel free to follow it on Facebook, or Twitter, or subscribe to it–the more folks the merrier.

iPad, Apps, and the Yearbook

My iPad 2

My iPad 2

Using the iPad in a Yearbook Class

It seems pretty obvious to me that the iPad has impacted my English classes the most so far. The 1 -1 program allowed me to move towards a paperless classroom mainly by changing the way I distribute and collect assignments in those classes. While ideas on how to use it in an English class came pretty fast and furious when the administration announced the plan, ideas on how to use it in my journalism class, and, by extension, the yearbook were a little harder to develop. In a lot of ways they still are.

But it is the possibilities of how the iPad might provide some change in the journalism class, the yearbook production process, and the yearbook itself that keeps whispering in the back of my mind. I can’t quite make out the whispers, but I think they are hinting at some big changes in the future.

While I have already mused about what the iPad and ebooks might mean for the yearbook of the future, I still want to figure out some ways to use it now that engages my yearbook staff more, makes their tasks easier, and transforms our yearbook. Is that too much to ask?

I suppose I have a hard time envisioning ways to use the iPad to do a lot of yearbook tasks in a new way because, in some aspects, our yearbook program has been pretty tech centered for years. Many of the practices that are new to my English classes this year are an old hat in the yearbook class. The staff creates the book online. I send messages to the staff via our yearbook company’s online program. The staffers write all of their articles on computers in the lab. They save them on the school network and email them to me. Bringing in the iPad doesn’t seem to offer anything that warrants changing so far. As for the biggest and most important activity: creating the page`s, that can not be done on the iPad because our online design program requires Flash.

Despite my desire for a game changing impact involving the iPad and the yearbook, I do recognize that there are some apps that yearbook staffs may find useful.`So, think of the following as possible starting points while we wait for the revolution.

iPad Apps for Yearbook Staffs

  • The iPad camera: While the built-in camera on the iPad too isn’t all that great for yearbook purposes, the photos it takes can be used on a spread if you keep them small. My staff sometimes uses these when a small mugshot is needed to go with a quote. They also use it to make videos for something new we are trying–more about that later in the post.
  • Notes: The biggest plus for this app is that it is built in. So, if a student doesn’t want to buy an app for taking notes, this will work. As for how staff members might use it, Notes is good for writing to-do lists for their assigned spreads or writing out interview questions.
  • Pages: The staff can use this solid word processing app for writing articles. Setting up questionnaire handouts is another good use for this app.
  • Notablity: If staff members want to invest in a more robust app for taking notes, this is a good one to get. With handwriting recognition and audio recording options available, this app is good for interviewing people.
  • Smugmug: My staff uses this app to quickly view photos we store in a Smugmug account. It definitely makes life easier when several people are trying to choose photos at the same time–no need to worry about printing contact sheets or fighting to get on the one computer housing the photos.
  • Flickr or Picasa Apps: The adviser for my school’s elementary yearbook uses Picasa to easily get photos from parents. If you want to give crowd-sourcing a try for more photos, then setting up an account through either Flickr or Picasa may be a good option. There are a multitude of apps that can access either of these photo sharing sites, so choosing which to use probably boils down to personal preference.

Apps for New Yearbook Features

It may seem a little strange to list video editing apps when talking about yearbooks, but I am mentioning them because of something new my yearbook staff is trying for this year’s book. We are going to use QR codes in our book to add an interactive element and expand coverage.  We haven’t announced this to the student body; so–sshhh–it’s a secret.

We decided to create QR codes that students can scan using their iPads, or smartphones, which will then take them to collections of extra photos, videos, slideshows, polls, our yearbook’s Facebook page, and possibly a yearbook Twitter page.  So, these are some apps that can come in handy for a staff wanting to try something similar.

  • iMovie: Apple’s video editing app makes it easy for staff members to edit video anywhere they go. They don’t have to be chained to a desktop in the lab.
  • Avid Studio: Avid’s video editing app was recently released and comes with some pretty high expectations.
  • QR Code City Scan: This is the app I installed in order to test things when we started discussing the possibility of using QRC codes in the book. It is reliable and I haven’t had any problems with it at all.
  • QR Code Generator: This is the app I use to make the QRC codes which will appear in our  yearbook. I had never used a QRC code, much less tried making one, when we started down this path and I was cranking out QRC codes within 2 or 3 minutes of installing it. Once the code is ready, I save it into the iPad’s camera roll; then I just email it to myself and upload it to our online yearbook program from my laptop.

Well, there it is. Some possible ways to use the iPad and apps in conjunction with the yearbook. While most of the apps listed aren’t the sort of game-changing event I think may be in the yearbook’s near future, they are at least a start.

What apps does your yearbook staff use? What are some apps that you think can be helpful for staffs putting together a yearbook?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Input and feedback is always welcome.

10 Things Every Yearbook Adviser Needs to Know

Pens and pencils on my desk

Pens and pencils on my desk

Being a yearbook adviser has been a big part of my life for 12 years. I’ve had my share of good years and bad years and I hope I’ve learned a thing or two. If I could offer any advice to other yearbook advisers out there, I would start with the list below.

10 Pieces of Advice for Yearbook Advisers

    1. Just because it worked last year doesn’t mean it will work this year: This belief probably comes from my class situation. Every year my staff is mostly new; I may have 1 or 2 people who were on the staff the previous year. In my 12 years doing this only had 2 students have been on the staff for 3 years. So, every year is like starting over. Just because one way of doing something worked for the last staff doesn’t mean the new staff can do it that way. One staff may need to be walked through every single little step for every deadline while the next one is pretty self-sufficient. One group may generate an idea and run with it while the next has to be handed an idea. Some groups will require you standing over them every class to get them working while another group will come in and get right to work without you muttering a single word.
    2. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong…at the worst possible time: I am a firm believer in Murphy’s Law. And when it comes to yearbooks, Murphy takes steroids. The more crucial something is to a deadline and the nearer the deadline, the more likely something will go wrong.  Need the article to finish the last spread for the deadline? The student responsible for that article will be sick the entire week before the deadline. If you can only get to one baseball game to get pictures, the game will be rained out. Be ready to adjust. Always have a Plan B-plus a C, D, and E in place for everything.
    3. You are the only one who REALLY cares about your deadlines: The only thing everyone really cares about is if the book is delivered on time. So, do whatever you have to do to make that happen.
    4. Mistakes are going to be in the book…learn to live cope with it: I have a hard time with this and it has taken quite a few years for me to even think this much less write it down. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the yearbook and mistakes drive me nuts, but I have come to realize that there is always going to be something wrong.  My personal favorite is a headline in one of our books that had to do with our basketball team winning the district championship–the problem is that we didn’t win the district that year. Why is this the one that really sticks with me? That particular mistake wasn’t pointed out until 3 years later. After my staff of 22 had passed that spread around 4 or 5 times looking for every single mistake, after I had looked at it countless times looking for mistakes, after an entire school had looked at the book for 3 years, no one had noticed that particular mistake until that one person showed it to me. It doesn’t matter how many times you and your staff proof every single spread in the book, something is going to slip by. Just try to come to some kind of terms with it that works for you.
    5. Your staff will surprise you…if you let them: I’m not advocating turning the staff totally loose here–it is more about the adviser letting go. Give the staff some room to run while you set the boundaries on the field where they run. For a long time I insisted on handling more than I should have. I still struggle with some things, but I have let go of the reins on a lot of things I wouldn’t have let the students handle a few years ago. I think the staff feels more invested when they have more control.
    6. Identify your staff members’ strengths, and weaknesses, as fast as possible: Identifying who is good at writing, photography, design, captions, headlines, etc. as quick as you can will make everyone’s yearbook life easier. Know who is dependable and who is shaky when it comes to handling critical aspects of a spread or section.
    7. If you are going to change a “tradition” make sure you have a reason: When I took over as the yearbook adviser, there was a “tradition” of having “Senior Wills” in the book. What I saw was 12-16 pages of solid text in a size 6 font, single spaced, and running margin to margin. Plus, it was replete with hidden messages, codes, and insults. Just saying “We are not going to do these anymore” didn’t really work–I had a fight on my hands. It wasn’t until I began using reasons based on journalism standards that I was able to banish this particular “tradition.” Basing any changes on this or that journalism standard has helped me get rid of a few antiquated “traditions” over the years. There have even been times when I have explained the standards we would follow to the staff when they have suggested we get rid of something before I can even mention that particular item. This approach seems to work pretty well with parents too–at least the reasonable ones.
    8. The secretary/receptionist is your best friend: Whoever answers the phone in your school is the fount of all knowledge. Why? Because they are answering the phone with questions from parents every day. They know which team has changed its game schedule for the week. They have directions to any place your school’s teams are playing–and their directions are better than any you can find online. They know who that slightly out-of-focus kid in the photo is.  They can print out lists of students sorted according to any criteria you need because they have more system privileges than you. Do whatever it takes to get on their good side and stay there. You will need their help.
    9. Know when to be flexible…and inflexible: Does a staff member have an idea for a spread you have never done before? Does the staff want to try a theme you don’t fully buy into? Does the staff want to change something that had been in the plan for a long time? Be open to suggestions on new things if they are accompanied with good reasons. Have your standards and don’t stray from them.
    10. Accept outside help..just don’t count on it: Find out who all those parents with cameras are you keep seeing at the games. If you or your staff missed out on getting photos of some event, one of those parents may have shots you can use. Just don’t expect all of the shots to be usable. And don’t count on getting them in time for the deadline. Sometimes, though, outside help can save the day. If you want to go all out on really try crowd-sourcing, set up a Flickr or Picasa account where parents can submit photos for your staff to use.

What advice would you offer yearbook advisers? Have some advice from your experience as an adviser to offer me? Please leave a comment.  Input is always welcome.

Useful Websites for Yearbook Advisers and Students

Magazines to read

Image by Longzero via Flickr

Websites Every Yearbook Adviser Should Know

My last few posts have been about apps for teachers, my favorite apps, going paperless, and the possibility of the yearbook as an ebook. So, instead of writing more about iPad apps,  I thought I would post a list of websites that I find useful in my role as a yearbook adviser since that is a huge part of my teaching life.  Some of these sites I use regularly, some occasionally. But, no matter the frequency I visit them, they have all helped me at some point or another.

I’ve broken the list into categories in order to give a better sense of where I go when looking for something applicable to a particular need. I’m sure this list is not definitive by any stretch of the imagination. If you know a useful website, let me know about it. Please.

Design Inspiration and Ideas

During my 12 years as a yearbook adviser I have found that I spend a lot of time looking for design ideas for spreads. When trying to find some ideas or inspiration, here are some websites I like to use and send my students to.

Various Publication Types

These are sites I mainly use to look for magazine spreads.

  1. The Society of Publication Designers A great site for looking at layouts from all types of publications. The site also has articles discussing various design topics.
  2. A board someone put together on Pinterest Pinterest is the latest hot, up-and-coming social site that lets it users “pin” images and pieces of websites they like into collections called boards which they organize by interest. I just recently found this board of images showcasing some really good spread designs. One thing to note about Pinterest is that you have to be invited to start your own boards.
  3. A Flickr group devoted to layouts There are several groups on Flickr devoted to layout design. This is just the one I happen to like the most.
  4. issuu.com  Issuu lets people and publishers post their magazines. You can look through and entire issue of the magazines listed on the site to look for design ideas or inspiration. One thing to be cautious about before sending staffers to the site is that some of the magazines may contain images that are inappropriate for your students.
  5. Google’s Image Search Sometimes I like to go  to Google’s Image search and use “flickr magazine layouts” or “great magazine layouts” just to see what pops up.

Yearbook Publishers Showcases

All of the big school yearbook publishers have sections to showcase some of the work in their clients’ books. Some of the sites also make it possible to view issues of the magazines they send to the advisers of their client school.

  1. Herff Jones’ Design Showcase This link will allow you to look at different layouts for some of Herff Jones’ schools.
  2. Walsworth’s Showcase You can look at covers, layouts, and award winners from Walsworth’s schools here.
  3. Josten’s Lookbook, Adviser & Staff Magazine Go here to look at the publications Josten’s makes available to the advisers at its client schools.
  4. Josten’s Yearbook Contests Josten’s runs one of the largest national yearbook contests and you can go here to look at the winners.
  5. Balfour/Taylor Publishing  You can look at the current issue of Taylor  Talk here.

Getting the Word Out and Sharing

I decided to include these sites on the list because of their ability to help yearbook advisers and staff stay connected with the students and parents at their school.

  1. Facebook You can create a page for your yearbook on Facebook. I have used our school’s yearbook page to give hints of spreads, share some photos, and, most importantly, post messages about ordering dates or other information.
  2. Twitter Another way to get important information out to students and parents is by setting up a Twitter account for the yearbook.
  3. Flickr  A popular site for sharing photos. You could set up an account for the yearbook and get students and parents to share their photos through this service.
  4. Picasa  This is Google’s photo sharing site; so, if you already have gmail, all you have to do is activate your Picasa option to start using this service.  The adviser for my school’s elementary yearbook uses photos parents submit through Picasa.

Journalism Associations and Organizations

The following websites are for national press associations and organizations related to high school journalism.  They all have tons of information about journalism, contests, workshops, and other general topics a yearbook adviser or journalism teacher will find helpful.  I tend to go to these sites when I am looking for lesson plan ideas, contest information, or critique services.

  1. Quill and Scroll Society
  2. National Scholastic Press Association
  3. Columbia Scholastic Press Association
  4.  Journalism Education Association
  5.  High School Journalism from ASNE

Well, there is the list such as it is.  If you use a website that you find useful as a yearbook adviser please let me know about it.

Can a School’s Yearbook Work as an EBook?

English: The iPad on a table in the Apple case

Image via Wikipedia

Apple Rumors and Revelations

Last week’s announcement from Apple about iBooks 2, textbooks, and iBooks Author immediately grabbed my attention. This was mainly because I had been reading rumors for a couple of weeks that Apple might be doing something with textbooks; and since my school had implemented a 1 to 1 iPad program this year, I was pretty excited that the possibility of our students having their textbooks available in a iPad friendly format sooner than I had expected. I didn’t expect e-textbooks for my subjects to be available now, but the thought of that day moving closer had me pretty pumped.

So, when I got the email from Apple, I downloaded iBooks 2 and iPad U and did a little bit of exploring.  But this post really isn’t about that. It is about what was at the bottom of the email: the almost inconsequential blurb about iBooks Author.  I read the blurb about the program for Macs that lets you publish an iBook and then moved on because I don’t have a Mac. Didn’t really apply to me.

But maybe it could–or should…

Is It Time to Change?

Over the weekend I started thinking about iBooks Author and what it might mean for yearbooks.  This line of thinking is largely due to the fact that as a yearbook adviser in the middle of a push for a major deadline, everything seems to lead back to the yearbook at some point. It also comes from the fact that yearbook advisers spend a lot of time worrying about their yearbook budget and hoping that they will come up with enough money to cover it.

Could iBooks Author offer a viable alternative to the traditional yearbook?  If a school could use this to make the yearbook it might be a way to eliminate all those budget headaches yearbook advisers share every year.  A lot of schools have done away with yearbooks because of the cost associated with them.  I find myself wondering if that day may come for my school; I actually find myself wondering that more and more as the years pass.

We have all read, heard, or seen the effect of ereaders on magazines, newspapers, and bookstores. As more and more publishers move their products to digital formats, I now find myself asking if the traditional, hard copy yearbook should make a jump into the digital realm before it goes the way of the T-Rex.

The idea of basically self-publishing a school yearbook with iBooks Author and having people download it from the iBooks store is pretty enticing.  Yeah, Apple keeps 30%, but I am willing to bet that is drastically better than any rate any school gets from one of the traditional school yearbook companies–even if the school is lucky enough to actually make money from its yearbook.

With the elimination of printing costs (which are the biggest portion of a yearbook’s cost) books that lose money could shift to making money almost immediately. A yearbook budget would be reduced to hardware and software needs.

Of course, all of this would depend on the answer to one question…

Will People Go for It?

Are people open to the idea of buying their yearbook in an ebook format? Or could this be one of those ideas that end up of the list of dead yearbook trends like cd or video supplements? Would people want integrated video, links, slide shows, and other multimedia goodies if it meant giving up the experience of having their best friend sign their yearbook? Even if we decided to do this, should we use iBooks Author or something else?

These are some of the nagging questions I have now. I need to do more research and thinking before I come to any definitive answer.

What do you think?